Yes, time for food at the luxury hotel that is Halekulani. Its main restaurants are in the two-floor plantation house in the centre of one of the five-acre property’s gardens. Go upstairs to the dinner-only La Mer, but first have a cocktail at its L’Aperitif Bar, a Belle Epoque place with old French trappings and flowers and white-coated barman. All the drinks come with a set ‘snack’ which, the gal was amazed to find, might even be a flaming foie gras brûlée. Halekulani is renowned for partnering with the best in the world – all its china, anywhere, is Bernardaud, and its glasses are Riedel.
Its cocktails are designed by Colin Field, legendary Brit who is head barman of The Ritz Paris. Drinks are described in a menu that is more like a journal, updated from time to time. Read about its absinthe-flavoured concoctions, and I think about Café Royal Hotel London, with its absinthe dispenser. Read about its Hendrick’s gin martini, with cucumber, and a snack of an oyster holding lychee and ginger sorbet. Have a glass, perhaps, of the hotel’s own champagne, a pale and non-sweet rosé from Fourny & Fils in Verlus. And then it is time to go through, or rather round the bar counter, to the main eating place.
You know from the faces featured in the journal that the great and famous have eaten here for many decades. You know that, today La Mer is judged best French food in the whole of Hawaii – they recently brought in consultant Stephen Loffredo to tweak what was already faultless service. The chef is Alexandre Trancher, and he specialises in dishes that will not, frankly, blow you up to Oprah size (at the end of my meal I felt more like Anna Wintour, without the hair). First, we looked at the wine list, which includes a fabulous selection of wines by the glass: they use Coravin, a suction system that allows. say, single glasses of Chevalier-Montrachet GC Bouchard 2009, DRC 2008 (@ $70/3oz) and even Ch d’Yquem 2003. We had a bottle of Grace Family Cabernet Sauvignon 2010, from St Helena, decanted, into Riedel of course.
After a pointillist display of smoked salmon wrapped in leek, and poached baby quail eggs and sea urchin. I went on to a main course of a steamed halibut stick, which came with almond oil-scented broccoli puree and sea asparagus. Lemon olive oil was poured over. I was with Peter Shaindlin, the erudite COO of the Halekulani Corporation, and we discussed his degree, in trumpet and composition, and hotels (what a surprise) and the world (we could make it better, much better). Around us, also looking out through the open-sided terraces of this lovely place, were lots of young couples. This is anniversarian heaven.
We went on to an extra, a restaurant specialty of casserole of foie gras with Asian vegetables, the whole under a crust of pastry that was so light it would have blown away had there been any wind. And after that we went down, to the ground floor of the plantation house, to the elegant Lewers lounge, a salmon treasure with polished floor, for dancing, and a shiny grand piano, for the light jazz that is played nightly. Have a glass of the Halekulani champagne here, by the way, and it comes in a coupe rather than a flute, and after the jazz-loving baby boomers have gone to bed, Waikiki’s high-achieving millennials come in, in their glad rags and looks better than anything in Vogue.
Down on the main floor of the plantation house, too, is Orchids, which serves all day but is particularly exquisite at breakfast. This was my view, the following morning, as I sat reading the Wall Street Journal and, had I had a personal journal in which to write, would have penned the words ‘I am sorry to leave this luxury hotel’…